Orphaned Bird Care

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For birds, there is an increased risk of aspiration pneumonia because the opening to their airway (called the "glottis") is located at the base of their tongue. NEVER put any liquid inside the bird's mouth. The best method for providing a source of hydration is by using thin slivers of peeled grapes. The fruit must not contain any peel, because certain species of birds may not be able to digest them. Fruits that contain a low acidity level and are high in water content are best: grapes, watermelon, plums, etc. Tiny slivers of boiled eggs are also acceptable, but the moisture content is low and should be alternated with slivers of peeled grapes. This should be repeated every 30 minutes until the bird can be transported to a wildlife rehabilitator. Each piece should be placed at the rear of the bird's right side of the mouth. Pay careful attention to ensure that you go above and behind the glottis.

Avoid letting any food or liquid particle get near the glottis, otherwise the bird will develop aspiration pneumonia. Allow the bird to close its beak and swallow. If the bird is reluctant to swallow, gently stimulate the base of its beak and throat. Sometimes setting the bird down will encourage swallowing. If the bird refuses to open its beak or is incapable of swallowing, do not attempt to pry or force it open. The delicate structure of the beak (similar to cartilage) can easily be permanently damaged. Stop immediately and leave the bird in a covered box until it can be transported.

Do not provide insects, worms, soaked dog food, or any other form of solids unless you have spoken with a wildlife rehabilitator and have been instructed to do so. Remember that a source of hydration is most important, and unless a rehabilitator has instructed you to feed solids to the baby it could prove fatal. There is no "one-size-fits-all" substitute diet for birds. A rehabilitator must first identify the species to determine the protein/calcium/etc. requirements of that particular species and then formulate a diet to match those requirements.

Note: Mourning doves and pigeons will not open their beaks for feedings. Instead, they will lift their heads, make a "weeping" sound and prod their beak around in search of a parent's beak to pry open. These babies must be fed by an experienced rehabilitator.

Also see

I Found A Baby Bird - Now What?
How To Rescue Baby Birds

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